I’m of an age where gaming has been readily available in my household for all my playing “career”. I’m envious of the gamers of a generation that had to use arcades and change from their pocket to play their favourite games. Arcade gaming is as retro as it gets, and no publisher or developer in the world can recreate that buzz that comes from being in a room with many like-minded individuals. Each person hope’s to collect the most points to reach the accolade of number one on the high score leaderboard. My latest review title Habroxia attempts to recreate the gameplay found in all those old-school experiences with its pixelated side-scrolling and top-down perspective.
Developed by Eastasiasoft Limited and Lillymo Games, and published by Eastasiasoft Limited, this space themed shoot-’em-up will have you testing your reflexes, memory recall, and patience as you take down wave after wave of alien spacecraft and gigantic bosses. You control a small fighter ship that must shoot lasers and rockets towards its foes, while avoiding asteroids, mountainous boulders, and the weaponry of your enemy.
You are tasked with completing 15 levels of fast-paced mayhem. Enemy ships will appear from nowhere, and you must think on your feet to take each of them down. As you complete a set of 5 levels, a mini game mode is unlocked. You will chance your hand with; invasion, boss battle, rescue and survival modes. Each allows you the opportunity to master different elements of the game, where you can earn credits, and plaudits as you aim to top the leaderboard, and be the champion pilot amongst your friends.
As you can see I’ve mentioned the word “credits”, you cannot ignore the chance to gather these as quickly as possible, as these are used to upgrade your basic fighter ship into a killing machine. You earn this currency by blowing up rocks, asteroids, and any spaceships you encounter. You will also be given a reward when you defeat the main boss for each stage. So what upgrades do you get? You can improve health, shot rate, power, spread of fire, add rockets, and more. You have the freedom to choose which you improve first, but ultimately you will upgrade them all, so it matters not which you select first.
The joy of arcade gaming was the infuriatingly difficult nature of the bosses you faced. Money would be wasted at an astronomical rate, as you desperately attempted to beat each level. Unfortunately, Habroxia didn’t quite get this balance right. The bosses were all too easy for my liking, and unfortunately some were used repeatedly with their names simply changed to “Boss II”. It was a little disappointing as the new and improved baddie would only have more health, and didn’t change its attack strategy, so once you had learnt how to take down its predecessor, then you knew how to overcome your new nemesis. I wish the developers had spent a little more time on this portion of their game, as it would have made it much more challenging, and would have been much closer to the arcade experience that they were attempting to create.
What both Lilymo Games and Eastasiasoft Limited get right is the aesthetics of the title. Both the graphics and the audio scream arcade classic. Mostly, the gameplay follows a simple West to East side-scrolling direction. Occasionally the action is mixed up as your ship flies from the bottom of the screen to the top using a top-down perspective. This mix in the gameplay kept things fresh and kept me interested throughout. The pixelated graphics have been polished up for the latest generation of consoles, but it keeps that arcade tone and colour that we are all accustom to. The stages each have a unique look, and each of the models of the enemy ships are different, allowing you to identify how to approach each situation. The gameplay was insanely busy, yet there were no signs of slow down, or visual issues that I could find. If you are a fan of arcade gaming, then you will love how this looks.
Continuing on from the visuals, the audio only serves to enhance the gamers experience. The retro synthesised soundtracks that accompany the gameplay pull at your heartstrings and takes you back to gaming with friends in an arcade. The sound effects are crass, sharp, and exactly what I hoped for. The clunky sounds of crashing into walls, the shrill sound of lasers being fired, and the explosions associated with your rockets made for a delightful audio that works perfectly with both the theme and the genre.
I’m going to be hated by retro gamers when I say that I think that arcade titles handle much better using modern day controllers. Habroxia handles brilliantly using an Xbox One controller, and its responsive analogue stick and buttons make the gameplay a joy to experience. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to try it with an arcade style controller, but the developers have done a great job of mapping the controls so they are easy to master, and make the game simple to play.
With a lack of difficulty settings, and only 15 levels to complete, it would be fair to say that the replay value may be impacted slightly. Fortunately, most arcade gamers are highly competitive, so the use of a leaderboard for each stage was a stroke of genius. I don’t know one person who won’t want to have their name in that number one slot, so this will keep people coming back for more. If you then add in the 4 mini games to compete in, then you have a recipe for plenty of gaming time. The achievements aren’t particularly tough to unlock, the hardest being the ones obtained in the mini game area, but with a little practice these can be easily added to your Gamerscore. At such a low price, this represents great value for money, with hours of gaming ahead of you.
Retro gaming is all the craze at the moment, and so many players are using these short, sharp titles to fill the void between big titles such as COD, AC Valhalla and Cyberpunk. I can see Habroxia doing this perfectly, especially if you are a fan of mindless space themed games. Do I recommend that you buy this? Absolutely! Jump in your cockpit, upgrade your vessel, and take down everything that flies in your path.